A few hours before he begins another one of his daily, boot camp-intense training sessions, Abner Mares acknowledges that he’s planning to soon play the thief.
“Just because I’m on the undercard doesn’t mean I can’t steal the show,” the 126-pounder says of upcoming fight with Arturo Santos Reyes, which opens the first Premier Boxing Champions broadcast March 7 on NBC.
At age 29, Mares was yet to be born the last time boxing aired on NBC in May 1985, but hailing from a boxing-mad family, he’s well aware of the sport’s past presence on network television.
“Boxing was big back then because of the fights being on prime-time TV,” he says. “People knew Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, all these great fighters, because of that—and, obviously, their skills. They were celebrities. I’m not wanting to be a celebrity so much, just wanting to get people to see and recognize our sport more than it has been.”
Mares possesses a kinetic boxing style that he believes will make him a successful ambassador for the sport.
“I’m an explosive fighter,” he says. “I can be a puncher, I can be a boxer. Putting all that to work, I can definitely bring in more of an audience, different viewers, to catch their attention with some of my skills, some of my moves.”
Born in Mexico, but raised in Hawaiian Gardens, California, Mares developed a passion for boxing as a kid, watching Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Caesar Chavez at festive, barbeque-fueled family gatherings.
“Back then, it wasn’t so much about who won, who lost, the next day, we’d just be talking about both fighters, how good a fight it was,” he says. “One thing I’ve always said is that I’m not worried about my record. I’m not worried about being undefeated, about being knocked down, about getting cut, whatever. I just want to give a good performance.”
Mares knows that he’s favored against Santos Reyes—and he also knows that such a designation means little inside the ring once the fight begins.
His lone defeat came against underdog Jhonny Gonzalez in August 2013.
“Everybody expected me to win, and I got careless,” he says, vowing not to make the same mistake against his next opponent. “Santos Reyes, I know him really well, he’s an ex-Olympian as well—a great amateur, an experienced fighter. He’s got a similar record as a pro. I don’t take any fight lightly. I don’t devalue any opponent. I just train hard, like if it was a title fight.”